The futuristic dystopia of the arty sci-fi romance Equals will be familiar to anyone who's seen the likes of Gattaca, The Island or THX 1138. It's a cool, rational, lifeless world, blanketed in whites and grays and blues, and peopled with unfeeling faces -- a world whose citizens will express brief concern at the sight of a man jumping off a building to his death before calmly adding, "I hope they'll find someone to cover his work."
In other words, the mood may be mild, bland and emotionless, but the symbolism is blunt, obvious, ripe. After the opening shots of blank-faced worker bee Silas (Nicholas Hoult) waking up in his pristinely empty flat, his closet full of white suits rolling out by itself, I was pretty sure I got the message about this society of functional, unthinking vacuity -- and the poor guy hadn't even left home yet.
Ordinarily, such shorthand would be a good thing. But not if that's all you have to offer. Silas one day notices his colleague Nia (Kristen Stewart) displaying some signs of anxiousness, and soon becomes captivated by her -- and she by him. Initially, it's fun watching the two break through the vacant monotony of their surroundings through the subtlest exchanges. The mood particularly benefits Stewart, who dials down her restlessness so that each shrug and glance reverberates. But we keep waiting for the love story to go somewhere, for the characters' burgeoning awareness of their repression to result in … something. And still the movie dithers in aestheticized reverie, with Doremus giving us longing, shaky close-ups against beds of plangent electronica, then giving us some more.